Writer of Horror Fiction


Review of Steven Pajak’s “Mad Swine: Regeneration”

Mad Swine: Regeneration completes the trilogy with the aftermath of the journey of the surviving members of the Randall Oaks subdivision near Chicaog who chose to head to Finnegan Farms in the dead of winter.  Lead by the narrator, Matt Danzig, those that make it to the farm work hard to establish a new life for themselves with the hope of going back to their suburban haven they left behind to retrieve those who stayed behind.  But with one of the worst winters on record and the ‘crazies’ still out there, it isn’t a journey they will be able to make for some time to come.

My reviews of the two previous books categorized them as such: the first book was predominantly action-man vs. zombie and man vs. man.  The second book focused more on character development, with Matt becoming less of a Rambo and more of an everyman doing his best to keep it together so those who are counting on him can do so as well.  This final act blends both action and character development together better than the other two books managed to do, with a quick paced, action-filled completion to the story that also continues to provide the reader with more reasons to grow attached to Matt, his older brother, and the group of people he is responsible for both at the farm and back at Randall Oaks.

The infected/zombies in this book take more of a back seat than in the prior books, with the focus being more on the living menace that has been creeping around the periphery of the barricaded and sheltered places Matt and his group have called home.  They are beginning to discover that they are far better organized and dangerous that anyone had assumed when those make a brazen assault on the farm.  While I would say that once again, the author has not brought a lot to the table that makes this story different or unique compared to the rest of the zombie subgenre, he has continued to refine his writing skills and given the reader a sharper, more well defined and compelling set of characters with each book.

Of course, there are a few pieces of criticism to share as it relates to Regeneration.  One in particular has to do with timing of Matt’s return to Randall Oaks.  It is tremendously coincidental that he arrives mere hours (though it seems like minutes) before a surprise attack rocks the gated community.  It seemed a bit rushed and a convenience to move the story forward at a quicker pace.  Another frustration I had is with the lack of development of the main bad guy, who had potential to be much further fleshed out, especially based on the limited details shared about him.  He seemed to be a rather twisted individual.  The book could have afforded him a few more pages to shape him into more of a worthy opponent to Matt and his team and to move him away from a more generalized baddy.

Overall, Mad Swine: Regeneration is the most satisfying of the three books in the trilogy.  It does a solid job of continuing the character development that made Matt more human and relatable in the second book, while at the same time sharing traits with the first book and its love of action.  The author (or perhaps the publisher or his editor…) seems to like taking a few shortcuts when it comes to certain story elements.  The battle between the neighborhoods never showed up except in synopsis in the second book and the main villain seems somewhat under developed here in the final book.  It isn’t a major criticism, but worth pointing out.  I believe that adding those components could only serve to enhance the story.

This was a satisfying zombie trilogy, in particular to watch and see how the author continued to grow and refine his ability to pull the reader in and give them a reason to grow attached to certain characters.  The action and story is solid, and the pace is fast.

Mad Swine: Regeneration can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Regeneration-Mad-Swine-Book-3-ebook/dp/B011SJQ31Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

Review of “Darlings of Decay”

Darlings of Decay is an anthology of zombie shorts and novellas written by female authors.  Often, the standard point made in a review of an anthology is that it is a mixed bag; good, bad, and so-so tales populate a book filled with a wide assortment of authors, whether the theme is specific or open ended.  Such is the case with this book, though not entirely for the standard reasons.  This isn’t a book filled with short stories that are all within a certain size range or even stories that are all complete.  Instead, it is a mix of shorts, novellas, and primers, for lack of a better term, from an assortment of authors offering up their take on the zombie apocalypse.

It wouldn’t be altogether fair to be critical of an author whose contribution is more of a primer rather than a whole story.  Unfortunately, stunted tales like those do leave something to be desired.  Granted, it is an attempt to lure the reader to the author’s completed work outside of the anthology, but they left me a bit frustrated at the sudden start and abrupt endings.  There were also a small group of novellas that felt rather expansive for such a book.  They were not necessarily primers, but were parts of larger works with bigger tales to tell, thus once again leaving things open ended unless the reader chooses to seek out the rest of the author’s work.

Darlings of Decay did offer up quite a few short stories that were not hints at bigger tales and some were noteworthy.  Chantal Boudreau, Tonia Brown, Catt Dahman, Lori R. Lopez, and Suzanne Robb all contributed some very entertaining short stories to this work.  As to whetting my appetite for something beyond the pages of this book, Jackie Druga’s “Zombie Battle” had a world building, epic quality to it that made me curious to see where the story would be heading after it cut off here.

Focusing on the quality of the stories, it was indeed a mix of well written, sharply creative tales and dull plodders that were predictable from start to finish.  It was clear that each author had to be responsible for their own editing, as there was no uniformity to each story on that score.  Some were clean while quite a few were clogged with obvious typos and awkward phrasing that could have been addressed with a uniform editorial sweep.

Treat this book as a sample platter and you will likely not be disappointed in what it has to offer.  Nibble here and there-try the short stories and perhaps take a peek at the longer tales and decide whether what they have to offer are worth some bigger bites.  Keep that in mind and you should come away satisfied that you have discovered a few new talented voices in the zombie genre that are worth seeking out further works from.

Darlings of Decay can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Darlings-Of-Decay-Shannon-Mayer-ebook/dp/B00DQ1P3S4/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

Great Review of At Hell’s Gates 3!

I thought I would share a review by a great friend of both the zombie horror and horror genre in general.  If you haven’t grabbed a copy of At Hell’s Gates 3 yet, take a look at Ursula K. Raphael’s review, which gives a concise synopsis of each tale included in this tome.  And of course, the fact that the proceeds from this book go to a very worthy charity should be some additional incentive for you to pick up a copy of your own.  So check out the review and then check out the book!


Review of Brian Moreland’s “Darkness Rising”

Darkness Rising is the latest novella from author Brian Moreland, who has written a diverse slate of supernatural horror stories over the course of the past few years.  I believe I have read most of his works and my reason for coming back is because his tales are vivid with a healthy dose of gore and grimness that splash across the pages in bright, primary colors.

Darkness Rising starts out as a somewhat traditional revenge tale, or so it seems to lead in that direction initially.  Naturally, it takes its fair share of dark turns that lead the reader far astray from its original intent.  It is clear that our main character, Marty Weaver, who is a janitor at a local college, is a sensitive soul who has been trodden upon one too many times and is ready to take out his anger on three sadists who catch him reading poetry next to a lonely, quiet part of a local lake while he pines for the woman he loves.

Of course, the author has something else up his sleeve and the story takes several wicked twists and turns.  The sadists in the story are real pieces of work, reminding me briefly of the villains in the movie “You’re Next” thanks to their use of animal masks and their lust for pain and anguish that they heap on their victims.

Marty is a likeable character, someone who is easy to root for.  While the author pulls no punches when it comes to what he must face (as well as memories of a tragic past that won’t let go), he is provided with the opportunity to release the darkness that resides inside him, as the description of this story alludes to.  This leads us to an even darker tale, one where revenge is still wafting through the air, but in ways that even Marty cannot fathom.

All in all, this is an entertaining, quick read, though I had a desire to see certain elements expanded upon-including the ‘dark artist’ aspect of the horror that is revealed to Marty.  His backstory is an interesting one, and Moreland has a deft touch when it comes to crafting creatures built out of nightmares.  The love story aspect of the tale is perhaps a bit fluffy, for lack of a better term, though not too cloying or maudlin given what horrors the reader and Marty have to come to grips with throughout the rest of this tale.  This is a fun, horrific story of revenge and regret by an up and coming author.

Darkness Rising can be found here:  http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Rising-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00Y05TVUG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

At Hell’s Gates 3: Bound By Blood to be released July 31st!

I had shared information on the upcoming third installment of the Hell’s Gates anthology a while back.  I am a proud contributor to this book, whose proceeds go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a charity benefiting military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

There are a slew of terrific up and coming and established horror authors on the roster for this one, and the list is conveniently posted right on the cover the book below.  My short story, “Little Lost Lamb”, has the privilege of being the first story to appear on its pages, which is a tremendous honor.

The Kindle version of the book is being released next Friday, July 31st.  Stay tuned for more details on the print version of the book.  I would encourage each and every one of you to check out this as well as the other two tomes in this series.  If not only for a chance to read some great horror short stories, to also contribute to a very worthy cause.

You can pre-order your kindle copy now by clicking on the cover below.  It will take you right to the Amazon page.  And do me another favor while you’re at it: post a review after you have the chance to read it.  While I have always appreciated receiving reviews of the books I am involved with, I especially hope there are a lot of reviews shared of this work since posted reviews generate more interest, and more interest means more people buying copies…and that means more money will be donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

To get you even more interested in this great book, I will share the description below.  Remember, just click on the cover to go to Amazon and get your copy.  And know that while you are giving yourself a well-deserved scare with this book, you are in no small way also helping some of our most needy veterans get the help they deserve.  Thanks!

It may be thicker than water, but AT HELL’S GATES the blood will flow like a river…

In the third volume of the #1 Bestselling AT HELL’S GATES series, some of the finest children of the family of horror authors will show you what it means to be BOUND BY BLOOD. Each unique tale of bloodcurdling darkness shows how kith and kin survive the things that go bump in the night…or become them.

All proceeds from this horror anthology series go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a charity benefiting military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. The authors, editors, and supporters of this series are pleased to donate their time and effort to our nation’s proudest sons and daughters.AHG3-COVER

Review of Vincenzo Bilof’s “Saint Pain”

Saint Pain wraps up the Zombie Ascension trilogy by Vincenzo Bilof.  The saga is complete, though some of the story threads remain loose, or a bit frayed, by the end of the tale.  Digesting it still, I’m not sure if that left me frustrated or content with how the author chose to close things out.  Doors are potentially left open for more, though whether they should be shut for good or not is debatable.

The book starts a full year past where Queen of The Dead left off.  Vega and Vincent are set up in a neighborhood with an old cop who doesn’t trust the ex-drug dealer.  There are quite a few people with them, including Father Joe and an ex-pro football player named Bill.  There are rumors of Vincent’s guns still hidden somewhere in the city (though he is not sharing any info) and stories of others in Detroit trading women and children for food and other supplies.  While the living have been active, the undead seem to have become lethargic.  Still, the harsh existence everyone faces has them questioning whether or not it is worth continuing to fight to survive.  In the meantime, Jim Traverse has returned to Detroit, apparently to finish the annihilation of the human race that he started a year before.

When the undead rise back up due to some sort of unknown force driving them to kill once again, everything is stirred up and those that are alive are forced to choose whether to fight or give up.  Vega wants another shot at Traverse while Vincent seems to be unsure of whether or not he wants to let go or to continue battling with Vega at his side.  Only Bill, the football player, seems willing to fight to the bitter end and save whoever he can, regardless of the consequences.  The reason why he is compelled to do so was one of the more poignant elements of this book, once revealed.

With all its supernatural elements and almost surreal quality to this story, where the author brings things home is when the humanity of his characters is revealed and/or demolished.  The madness of some, the despair of others, and the resignation of those who know they are about to die but are still willing to fight…plus those who have already died and yet still fight on for some sort of redemption.  These components to the story drew me in and kept me intrigued.  The supernatural components of this story gives it a unique kink that will entertain those who crave something beyond the traditional zombie tale.  There are layers of manipulation and control…by both the living and the dead…over the undead and those who have power over them.  It is a twisty pretzel the author has created here and I am not ashamed to admit I was a bit confused in a few spots as to who was manipulating who.

With its heavy dose of introspection, this book did have a few parts that dragged a bit.  Vega and Jim Traverse have always been interesting characters to me, with Vincent less so.  His melancholia didn’t keep me intrigued every step of the way.  I did enjoy the introduction of Bill, who seems like a character who you could root for despite his flaws.  He seems the only person capable of holding on to some semblance of hope even when that seems pointless.

Saint Pain is a fitting ending to Vincenzo Bilof’s unique zombie trilogy.  Though some of the characters are frustrating and despicable at turns, they were vividly drawn and draw you into their story, despite how dark, dank, and depressing it all becomes.

Saint Pain can be found here:   http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Pain-Zombie-Ascension-Book-ebook/dp/B00WS2LAFC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1437239968

Cover Art and Final Contributor’s List for “At Hell’s Gates: Bound By Blood” released!

I’m happy to announce that the third installment of the At Hell’s Gates anthology series has revealed the final list of contributors and the finalized cover art.  Sticking with the cover design style started with the first book, Bound By Blood is a different color but has the same compelling imagery.

The theme of Bound By Blood means that the stories that appear in this book are all about family. Here is an informal description of what to expect on these pages: There is no greater bond, especially in times of great fear, than that between mother and fathers, sons and daughters.  The third AT HELL’S GATES anthology will focus on parents and children.  The power of the parental bond is demonstrated as Rick Grimes is reunited with his son Carl in the middle of the zompocalypse or Grendel and his mother terrorize the mead hall in tandem.  It is even perverted when Jack Torrance turns on his family in the Overlook Hotel.

My short story, “Little Lost Lamb” is my contribution to this work.  Originally scheduled to be a part of another anthology for a book that ended up not getting published, I am thrilled this twisted piece of love (and hate), family style, has found a home.  I am quite proud to be a part of this book, mainly because the proceeds are, as they have been with the previous works, being donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  You can find out more about this great cause here: http://athellsgates.com/our-cause/.

I don’t have a link to buy this book just yet, but stay tuned.  Once it is available, I will share the link over on my Bio and About Me pages-just click on the cover art.  For now, check out the impressive list of contributors and the awesome cover art below.

AHG3 is scheduled to release July 31st, 2015.

Returning Authors:
Shana Festa
Devan Sagliani
Sharon Stevenson
Stephen Kozeniewski
Lesa Kinney Anders
Stevie Kopas
Tim Marquitz
Sean T. Smith
Curran Geist
Paul Mannering
TM Caldwell
C.T. Phipps
S.G. Lee

New Authors:
Timothy W. Long
Chris Philbrook
Sarah Lyons Fleming
M. Lauryl Lewis
Douglas Draa
RJ Kennett
Christine Morgan
Kerry Alan Denney
Mikhail Lerma
Suzanne Robb
Brian W. Taylor
David Sakmyster
Patrick D’Orazio
Terry Maggert
S. P. Durnin

Other Contributors:
Formatting: Kindra Sowder, Burning Willow Press
Cover Art: Artwork by Martin de Diego Sadabo. Cover design by J.M. Martin. PoD Formatting: Alan MacRaffen
Editors: Dane Hatchell, Terri King, S. Kay Nash


At Hell’s Gates: Bound By Blood


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